Thursday, July 5, 2018

Astronomique - Sharp Divide (2018)

Written by Drew East, posted by blog admin

Astronomique’s new studio release Sharp Divide is the band’s first album length collection and they’ve amassed a powerful bevy of songs for this important benchmark in their career. None of the songs are remotely self indulgent, a semi frequent knock on acts working in the synth pop style, and songwriters Sean Hogan, the band’s guitarist, and lead vocalist Logan Andra Fongemie craft distinctly darker musical narratives than a lot of their peers and their subject matter has a decidedly different slant as well – you’ll find precious little in the way of “it’s Friday night and let’s have a good time” or “boy meets girl” songwriting on Sharp Divide. There’s a strongly personal and intimate feel to Sharp Divide, but there’s plenty of imagination powering this album as well.

“Forefathers” introduces us to one of the album’s strongest suits, the engine room of bass player Preston Saari and drummer Mitch Billings. They have a kinetic rapport with Hogan’s guitar and Fongemie’s vocals even on a recording, so it’s intriguing to wonder what they could accomplish live with these songs. “We Disappear” has a relentless thump from bass and drums working in lockstep with one another and staccato rhythms from guitarist Sean Hogan that expand with the song’s chorus and bridge. The chiming effect he achieves is effective for lightening the song’s melancholy mood without making it unfamiliar contrasted with the other songs. Despite any differences in approach, there’s a common stylistic and sonic thread uniting these songs.

The pulsing synthesizer intro to “Losing Our Control” sets the stage for one of Sharp Divide’s most forceful tracks and the gurgling bass from Preston Saari is particularly effective, but knows when to shift into a different gear and seamlessly does so. Sean Hogan’s guitar is clear and punchy here without ever dominating the performance. “Sharp Divide”, the album’s title song, has a more spartan musical thrust than the previous track, but Astronomique’s individual brand of synth pop continues to flex its muscles here, although in a decidedly darker, more thoughtful fashion than the album’s more straight-forward numbers. “Smoke” has a stronger synthesizer base than most of the album’s other songs, but it’s nonetheless quite successful and features one of Fongemie’s best vocals on Sharp Divide.

“Bleed Me” is another of the darker tracks from Astronomique’s latest that will gain listener’s attention. It’s one of the Fongemie’s most impassioned, haunted performances on Sharp Divide and the intensely human quality of her voice plays off nicely against her synthesizer playing. Billings and Saari, once again, lay down a steady groove for the song. “Heading Nowhere”, the album’s finale, doesn’t have nearly as defined of a groove, but Saari and Billings are standouts once again and everything else keys off their performance. Astronomique’s Sharp Divide is their strongest release yet and clears the road ahead of them for even greater triumphs to come.